Staying in Tune

12 October 2017

Radio in Malaysia has a long history dating back as early as 1921. Once seen as a valuable medium to disseminate important information to the masses, particularly during pre-Independence Malaya, radio evolved to become a chief source of entertainment and news. Today, Malaysia has 24 private and 44 government-owned radio stations. The latter is operated under Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), the country’s public broadcaster.

Save for a lucky few, FM radio stations these days struggle to compete with streaming music services which allow people to play at being their own DJs; more so if these stations are state-owned, and even more so if they’re provincial.

But a year short of its 25th anniversary, Langkawi FM seems like it’s standing strong against the Tidal wave. Radio Pelancongan Langkawi was first established in 1993 to disseminate tourism-related information, like activities, cultural events, hotels and local food on the island.

Several high profile radio personalities were roped for short stints – including legendary RTM DJs Alan Zechariah, George Abraham and Rastom Rahman – to assist the skeleton crew of 12 officers and engineers tasked with getting the station off the ground. Which it did almost immediately, winning its first of three RTM Q Awards just three years later.

Rastom Rahman, a veteran radio personality, is part of the current Langkawi FM crew

Along with his magnificent beard, Rastom is still part of the crew, which now comprises Lynn Anim, DJ Ain @ Shuhaini, DJ AA, DJ PKZ, DJ Sham, DJ Halinea, DJ Sufina, DJ Muhammad, and DJ Suria. They can be heard as far out as Perlis, Kedah and Satun, Thailand on 104.8 MHz (but 87.5 MHz for Kuah, where the station is based).

But where it once was known for serving tourists, Langkawi FM now caters almost exclusively to the island’s residents. “At the beginning the station was more focused on providing information for local and international tourists in Langkawi, but now the focus has shifted to local residents, in line with its role as a community radio station,” says Romi Mohd Kilau, director of the Langkawi Broadcast Department.

Shuhaini Daud, better known on air as DJ Ain

Langkawi FM is now a valuable source of information for Langkawi’s residents. Its Kuah segment, which runs from 7 to 11am daily, informs them of the weather, traffic, ferry and flight schedules, and perhaps most importantly, the tide. This is followed by the bilingual two-hour Check-in Langkawi segment, with news reports, music, and on occasion, some local talent playing live in the studio.

Closing the day’s broadcast is the Chenang segment, which usually features interviews with notables in Langkawi, like the organisers behind the Trash Hero Langkawi project (after 7pm, content is re-broadcast from Kedah FM or the mothership Nasional FM).

Langkawi FM doesn’t stress too much over audience figures, being a local radio station and all. But they do admit that interest has cooled a little of late – not just because of streaming services, but internet radio stations and popular podcasts.

Still, it’ll be a while before any newfangled technology unseats the fond place the station has in the hearts of Langkawi’s residents. Like lifetime islander Mohd Fydzalridzwan, who depends heavily on the station to catch up on local news while he’s driving his cab, says: “I wouldn’t know what to listen to without it.”

For more on Malaysia’s national and local broadcast stations, visit www.rtm.gov.my.

By Jason S Ganesan
Photos by Hizwan Hamid

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